There’s nothing better than training for a long race and being able to splurge a little more than usual on our pastas and pizzas. Most people have heard of “carb loading” and think that training for a race gives them license to eat every carb in sight. Although that’s not really the case, it is important to make sure you’re not skimping on the carbs.
Carbs are crucial for energy which means they’re crucial for our runs. A quick science lesson: carbs fill your liver with glycogen which then produces ATP which is basically a battery for your body. Without carbs you have no glycogen which means you have no ATP which means you have no battery. Got it? Of course, you want to make sure these are the right kinds of carbs- the kind that come from fruits, veggies, and whole grains; not the kind that come from candy, cokes, and white flours.
So, does this mean you can skimp on carbs all week and just eat them right before the run? No! Your body is constantly at work and if you’re already depleted, it’s just going to take longer to get it back to where you need it. A runner’s diet should consist of about 60-70% of carbs on a continual basis.
How does this translate to you and where we are in the training schedule? All of our long runs are on Saturday morning, the Full and Half Marathon groups, so everyone should make sure they eat a dinner on Friday night that consists of carbs. If you eat salmon and a salad you’re already getting yourself behind. Like I said before though, don’t eat more than you normally would, just make sure that about 70% of your meal is a healthy carb. This will allow your body to start processing the carbs and will help to top of your glycogen tank (“fuel tank”). As you sleep you burn calories and carbs (yes, you do!!) so you’ll need to top the tank off again. How do you do this? With carbs, of course 🙂
What do i do? I usually always have pizza on friday nights. Pizza is a great carb and i find that it works well for me. If i don’t have the choice of pizza, i’m still sure to get some carbs. If i am unable to do this for whatever reason, i’ll be sure to have a small amount of carb before i go to bed, either my sports drink or some easy mac. Note: i only go for the easy mac if i have a run longer than 15 miles or so!! Otherwise, i would live on easy mac at 10pm on friday nights!
About 80% of this pre-run meal should come from carbs. You can also have a protein and healthy fat but these are much harder to digest so it could impair your running performance if you eat too much. The amount you eat is dependent upon how early you wake up to eat but, no matter what, you do need to eat. It’s good to play around with what works for you. You’re probably going to be able to stomach 200-400 calories as long as it’s not right before the run.
What do i do? I pretty much always have a whole grain english muffin with peanut butter. so, for a 6 am run, i get up at 4:45, walk straight downstairs, make breakfast, and eat while i’m on the roller. That leaves me time to get ready for the run after i’ve eaten and gives my food some time to digest. The peanut butter works fine for me because i don’t use very much. Some people love bananas and bagels before a run so find what works for you.
On to the run! I KNOW it can be a little disconcerting to take in calories while you’re also trying to get rid of calories but you have to stop thinking of it that way!! Stop now! Would you rather burn 700 calories, have no steam, progressively slow down on the run, and end up so sore and tired that you have to stay in bed all weekend or would you rather burn 450 calories, have an awesome run, remain energetic, and feel up for whatever after the run?! Come on, go with the 450! The only way for this to happen is to make sure you’re not depleting your body of all its energy. Studies have shown that the body starts to deplete itself of glycogen with as few as 60 minutes of running so we want to make sure we are constantly topping off the tank so this doesn’t happen to us.
It will vary depending on the person and on the distance you’re doing that day so the general rule of thumb for Half Marathoners is 100-250 calories per hour and for Full Marathoners is 200-400 calories per hour. The smaller the person, the less calories needed. The longer the run, the more calories you’ll need. Sounds easy enough, right? Probably not. Now you have to figure out when to take it, how to take it, what to take, how to carry it, and so on. First, choose what it is that you think you want to use (you’re probably going to want to try several different things over the next couple of weeks and see what you like). Look at that and see how many calories are in it. More than likely, it’s going to be a sports gel or bean that you’ve chosen so the carb to calorie breakdown is already figured out and you can just focus on the calorie count. Now you can figure out how many you need to take with you for your run. Next, come up with a fueling schedule that you will follow during the run.
What do i do? It’s going to be different depending on the run. For a 7 mile run, i will sip on water every 10 minutes until mile 4. At mile 4, i will eat 1 bag of Honey Stingers (just happens to be what i like). Note: i am eating the whole bag (160 calories), not just 1 chew!! Those of you that are eating one chew or bean may as well just stick it in your ear instead 🙂 I will continue to drink water every 10 minutes until the run is over. For a 9 mile run, i will most likely start with water every 10 minutes, have some gu chomps or Honey Stingers at mile 4 and 8, while also sipping water the whole time. On a 13 mile run, i pretty much stick to the same schedule- fuel every 4 miles BUT i always take 1 extra pack in case i feel like i need more than i planned for. On a run that is 13 miles or more, i add in some Accelerade in 2 of my bottles and alternate this with my water as well as all my goodies.
from an old post:
things to note:
1. 1.if you’re using a sports drink AND sports gels, you must wash your gels / beans down with water, not your sports drink. otherwise you’re taking in too many carbs at once and you’re going to end up with an upset stomach. that’s why i like my 4 bottle belt- i put Accelerade in 2 of the bottles and water in 2 of the bottles.
2. 2.if you’re not using a sports drink and are only using water, you must look at the carbs, calories, and electrolytes on whatever food your using and make sure it’s enough. you’ll probably need to take in more gels than you’re expecting.
3. 3.if you only have 1 bottle and you want sports drink, make sure you’re able to get water somewhere along the course to wash down the fuel. you’ll need to wash down your “food” with water for 10-20 minutes before drinking a sports drink.
Lastly, fueling after the run. You are not done with your long run until you have properly fueled. After a long run it is key that you rehydrate, replenish muscle glycogen, reduce secondary muscle damage, rebuild muscle protein, and replenish muscle fat stores- the quicker you do this, the faster and more thoroughly you will recover. Exercise related muscle damage can continue after you finish exercising unless you quickly consume carbs and protein to lower cortisol levels and initiate muscle protein rebuilding. Rehydrating with plain water is not going to be enough! You’ll need a carb and protein along with some electrolytes (especially if you have sweated a lot) within about 30 minutes. This will help keep you injury free and, believe it or not, will keep you from gorging on bad foods later in the day. Think of it as medicine for your muscles that you have to take before you eat something. *I drink a muscle milk after all long runs before my shower. I then shower and have time to concentrate and make (or get) a somewhat healthy meal. Again, you do NOT have to do as i do but this is just giving you an idea of a way to refuel.
Here’s a study i’d like to share:
This was published in the Journal of Physiology. Subjects were given a carb-protein supplement either immediately after exercise or 2 hours later while participating in a 12 week strength training program. The subject receiving the carb-protein mix immediately after exercise has a muscle size increase of 8% and strength improvement of 15%. Those who got it 2 hours later had no improvement. For runners, this would serve the same purpose of preserving muscle after long runs. (and NO, you’re not going to “bulk up” by doing this!!)
One more thing, you may be wondering why i choose Accelerade as my sports drink. At the time i started using it, it was one of the only sports drink with a whey protein. There was a study done that showed that athletes who used a carb-protein sports drink during a workout lasted 40% longer in workouts than those who used a carb only drink. I have nothing to compare it to but i do know i’m willing to take some help anywhere i can get it 🙂 You definitely want to make sure your sports drink has electrolytes- sodium, potassium, and magnesium- this is the stuff you’re sweating out when you think it’s just water.
Again, these are tools for you to use to determine what works best for you. I don’t know if you’re going to do well with an Ensure before a workout or a bagel but i do know that if you’re not fueling properly before, during, and after the long runs, you’re going to suffer.
Here’s to energetic running 🙂